Make Marketing History

The views of a marketing deviant.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Hanging On The Telephone

1471 is the number you dial in the UK if you want to see if anyone has tried to phone you. It's a free service that is quite useful if you fail to make it to the ringing phone or forget to switch on your answering machine.

Quite useful, but oh so infuriating because of the way the phone company gives you the information. The automated voice slowly intones, "Telephone number xxxx-xxxxxx called you at (time and date)" and the message is not changed until you miss another call. So you're hanging on listening to a number for maybe fifteen seconds - it seems so much longer - before you get to the crucial data about the time and date of the call.

That may seem counter-intuitive, but the reality is that many users of this service are the elderly without answering machines and they may not miss calls very often - thus each time they check via 1471 they have to listen through a whole message to discover that effectively no-one has called them while they were away from the phone. The phone company, being a phone company, assumes that the number is the most important bit of data. But that's for the customer to determine and, in fact, they don't want to waste time listening to a number that will be irrelevant to them.

Now, if someone at the phone company had bothered to use the service themselves, they wouldn't be infuriating customers whom they assume to be delighted with this freebie. They would realise that the time of the call was actually the primary piece of information.


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